The world is full of advice for married couples, newlyweds or not -- some of it commonsensical, most of it well-intentioned, and much of it wrong. In the 14 years we've been married, my husband and I have broken all the rules at least once -- and when I copped to friends, most of them gleefully admitted they'd done the same. So I asked them to go on the record as we figured out the biggest myths about marriage. With the help of a few experts (themselves veterans of long, kid-filled relationships), we've decoded what bits of conventional wisdom are worth tossing -- and what are worth tweaking -- from the suggestions we've all heard since walking down the aisle.
Myth: Never go to bed angry
It sounds reasonable -- why risk letting a fight smolder overnight only to flare up again the next day? Better to resolve things, sleep soundly, and start fresh.
What we say: Just agree to disagree until morning -- especially if it's midnight, there's no resolution in sight, and you're dying on the vine. After all, not every argument comes with a built-in time limit.
When Brooke Kline of Rohnert Park, California, and her husband wave a temporary white flag and hit the sheets, they see the issue more clearly in the morning. "We aren't so caught up in our emotions," says this mom of a 9-month-old.
Alternately, agreeing beforehand to make up can take the edge off a disagreement. Rachel Kincade of Fort Hood, Texas, says when she can't resolve a conflict with her husband, they have to spend the next day saying or doing nice things for the other person. "By the end of the day, you feel so pumped up on compliments that you just can't stay mad!"
Of course, going to sleep angry isn't great. But here's the bright side: "Even if you go to bed mad and sleep in separate rooms once in a while, you'll be okay -- and so will the relationship," says David Wexler, Ph.D., author of When Good Men Behave Badly (not to mention a dad of two who has been married for 24 years).
Myth: Having a baby brings you closer
When my older son was born, my normally reticent husband and I suddenly had a million things to talk about. (Of course, we spent most of our time talking about one subject: the baby! The baby! And did I mention the baby?)
But then my husband went back to work, the traitor. And the baby got colic. And the thrill of nursing all night and staggering around like a zombie all day began to wear thin. Naturally, I couldn't take my frustrations out on my precious tiny bundle... but I had to blame someone. Guess who?
What we say: Having a baby is the ultimate bonding experience. But it also puts enormous strain on your relationship. One solution? Simple acknowledgment -- couples tend to have problems when they expect everything to go smoothly.
You'll also definitely need help with the unbelievable physical labor babies require. "Delegate. If you're good at the bedtime routine and your spouse loves bathtime, you can divide and conquer the tedious parts of parenting," says Karen Reivich, Ph.D., a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center, coauthor of The Resilience Factor, and -- most important -- a mom of four who's been married for 14 years.
It helps to get away from the baby on a semi-regular basis. If a formal "date night" makes you cringe, or the logistics seem impossible, opt for something more low-key. "We don't leave the house because we can't afford a babysitter, but every Wednesday night, after the kids are in bed, my husband and I have a glass of wine together as far away as possible from their bedrooms," says Reivich.
Fernanda Moore has written for New York magazine.